RAW HIS­TORY Dar­win au­thor and aca­demic Dr Dino Hodge shares his own per­sonal story of strug­gle in A Ho­mo­sex­ual His­tory of Aus­tralia’s Trop­i­cal Cap­i­tal

Sunday Territorian - - LIFESTYLE - CHELSEA HEANEY

Two and a half decades since the pub­li­ca­tion of Dr Dino Hodge’s Did You Meet Any Mala­gas? A Ho­mo­sex­ual His­tory of Aus­tralia’s

Trop­i­cal Cap­i­tal and the au­thor and aca­demic is ready to tell his own story of strug­gle.

It comes at a poignant time, as the Dar­win Pride Fes­ti­val wraps up this week­end for 2018 — a fes­ti­val Dr Hodge said he helped found in 1985 along­side Sim Lee and some­thing that kicked off this his­tor­i­cal pro­ject, which would even­tu­ally be pub­lished in 1993.

Dr Hodge told the NT News that there were two ma­jor events in 1985 that pushed him into this work, one be­ing the fes­ti­val and an­other be­ing the ris­ing threat of HIV.

“Up un­til that point (1985) the queer com­mu­nity in the Ter­ri­tory was re­ally frag­mented,” he said. “Peo­ple lived lives in fear of po­lice per­se­cu­tion, so they lived their lives un­der­ground. It was re­ally im­por­tant to start draw­ing peo­ple to­gether. They all had good rea­sons to be fright­ened, there was per­se­cu­tion and there was no anti-dis­crim­i­na­tion leg­is­la­tion.

“The other rea­son was that HIV ar­rived and there was a huge moral panic that saw many peo­ple be­ing badly treated and ha­rassed. Peo­ple lost their jobs, peo­ple were at­tacked and again, there was no pro­tec­tion in place.

“It was a re­ally dif­fi­cult pe­riod and I could sense that these two events were ma­jor tran­si­tions in cul­ture and they were of his­tor­i­cal im­por­tance, so I started col­lect­ing archival ma­te­ri­als.

Mr Hodge said he recog­nised the im­por­tance of of­fer­ing new in­sights into gay cul­ture at that time. “When you are part of an op­pressed group where the only in­for­ma­tion you get is from po­lice re­ports, from peo­ple that have been charged with of­fences and peo­ple

who have been con­victed. When that, by and large, is the only in­for­ma­tion you’d get from the pub­lic arena about your life then you had very lit­tle about which to feel proud,” he said.

“So hav­ing a sense of our iden­tity, of our his­tory, of the chal­lenges that we have faced and the achieve­ments that we have been able to make, it was re­ally im­por­tant to know where we have come from and who are he­roes are from the past that stood up and chal­lenged po­lice or dared to open bars at a time when ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity was il­le­gal.”

Did You Meet Any Mala­gas? is es­sen­tially a se­ries of con­ver­sa­tions with thir­teen gay men from the NT — in­clud­ing a bar owner, a pri­est, a hus­tler, po­lit­i­cal ac­tivist and the first Ter­ri­to­rian di­ag­nosed with AIDS. It pro­vides from a look back into the past days of World War II to what was the present strug­gles of 1993. Dr Hodge said he got the book’s ti­tle from one of his in­ter­vie­wees.

“Malaga is a lo­cal word for man and the phrase comes from an in­ter­view that I did,” he said. “He was with a group of friends and one of them went off cruis­ing, he went out look­ing for com­pany, and when he came back they all wanted to know, had he met any mala­gas? Had he met any­body?” Dr Hodge said at the time of pub­li­ca­tion Did

You Meet Any Mala­gas? was only the fourth Aus­tralian book about gay male cul­ture.

But once he had doc­u­mented the strug­gles of his com­mu­nity, Dr Hodge said that was when a whole new set of is­sues be­gan.

“It was re­ally well re­ceived here in the Ter­ri­tory but I had to fight to get that book out. There were chal­lenges and I don’t want to down­play that,” he said.

“The North­ern Ter­ri­tory His­tory Award used to be a sin­gle award of $20,000 that was granted to an au­thor to write a book about NT his­tory.

“I ap­plied for that award and my name was put for­ward, a CLP gov­ern­ment min­is­ter was so out­raged that he re­fused to is­sue an award that year and in­stead de­manded that there was a re­view of the award sys­tem. No one got an award.”

Dr Hodge said he was also ha­rassed by the CLP, named in par­lia­ment un­der par­lia­men­tary priv­i­lege and sub­ject to a Sun­day

Ter­ri­to­rian ar­ti­cle that had to be later re­tracted af­ter he took a com­plaint to the Press Coun­cil of the day. “On top of all of that, all that stuff just prompted crazy peo­ple. Peo­ple thought it was okay to do nasty stuff to gay peo­ple. Gay peo­ple used to get bashed and there was no point in go­ing to the po­lice be­cause they were not re­cep­tive and it was just hu­mil­i­at­ing,” he said.

“All that pub­lic­ity put in place the en­vi­ron­ment, the at­mos­phere, to en­cour­age this man to stalk me. He wrote hate­ful let­ters to my em­ployer, my pub­lisher and at that point I was liv­ing in Leanyer across the road from the Hi­bis­cus Shop­ping Cen­tre. One day when I was shop­ping there, one day af­ter work, he at­tacked me and as­saulted me in the su­per­mar­ket.

“I was so shaken that I ended up sell­ing my home and I moved in with a friend and just went off the grid. I went com­pletely un­der­ground to try to shake this stalker.

“That just demon­strates the dif­fi­cul­ties of even try­ing to doc­u­ment the his­tory of the queer pop­u­la­tion and the trans pop­u­la­tion. That’s me 25 years ago, that’s not that long.

“There are some very pow­er­ful re­ac­tionary el­e­ments of so­ci­ety that don’t want queer and trans peo­ple to have re­spect or be treated with re­spect. It’s true then and it is true to­day. That’s why it is re­ally im­por­tant to have books like this.”

Since then Dr Hodge said a lot has changed, and he has gone on to fur­ther build on his work — pub­lish­ing a se­cond book about indige­nous LGBTQIA+ Aus­tralians in 2015 ti­tled Colour­ing the Rain­bow: Blak Queer and Trans Per­spec­tives.

“In 1985, when Dar­win Pride was first founded, we were il­le­gal, we were sub­ject to ha­rass­ment, we were abused, we could be dis­missed from jobs and we had no pro­tec­tion. To­day, it’s a very dif­fer­ent world,” he said.

“That’s why, in 1985, I knew it was im­por­tant to start col­lect­ing ma­te­ri­als. Be­cause I knew that to­day’s world would even­tu­ate and un­less we doc­u­mented what was hap­pen­ing that knowl­edge of his­tory and strug­gle would be lost.

“The knowl­edge and his­tory of our he­roes would dis­ap­pear. The knowl­edge and his­tory of our losses, all of the peo­ple that we lost to HIV, their mem­o­ries would evap­o­rate. That wouldn’t be fair and that wouldn’t be right.”

Don Dun­stan, In­ti­macy & Lib­erty is also writ­ten by for­mer Dar­win res­i­dent Dino Hodge

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.